President of Liberia

President of the
Republic of Liberia

Presidential Standard
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

since January 16, 2006
Style Madam President
Her Excellency
Residence Executive Mansion
Term length Six years, renewable once
Inaugural holder Joseph Jenkins Roberts
January 3, 1848
Formation Constitution of Liberia
July 26, 1847
Salary US$90,000 annually
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The President of the Republic of Liberia is the head of state and government of Liberia. The president serves as the leader of the executive branch and as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia.

Prior to the independence of Liberia in 1847, executive power in the Commonwealth of Liberia was held by the Governor of Liberia, who was appointed by the American Colonization Society. The 1847 Constitution transferred the executive powers of the governorship to the presidency, which was largely modeled on the presidency of the United States.

Between 1847 and 1980, the presidency was exclusively held by Americo-Liberians, the original American settlers of Liberia and their descendants. The original two-party system, with the Republican Party and the True Whig Party, ended in 1878, when the election of Anthony W. Gardiner marked the beginning of 102 years of single-party rule by the True Whigs. Following a coup d'état by disgruntled army officers led by Samuel Doe in 1980, the presidency was vacated until the election of Doe in the 1985 general election. After the overthrow and murder of Doe in 1990, the presidency was again vacated for seven years during the First Liberian Civil War and again for two years following the conclusion of the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003.

Under the 1986 Constitution, the president is directly elected by eligible voters to a six-year term, which may be renewed once. Overall, 22 individuals have served as president. On January 16, 2006, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was sworn in as the twenty-fourth and current president, making her the first elected female president in Africa.


Following the establishment of the Commonwealth of Liberia in 1838, executive power was vested in the Governor of Liberia, who was appointed and served at the pleasure of the American Colonization Society. The first governor, Thomas Buchanan, served from 1838 until his death in 1841. He was succeeded by Joseph Jenkins Roberts, the first black governor of Liberia.

Upon independence in 1847, Roberts was elected as the first president of Liberia. The 1847 Constitution denied suffrage to the indigenous population by requiring voters to own real estate. As a result, the presidency was exclusively held by Americo-Liberians until 1980, when a military coup led by Samuel Doe, an ethnic Krahn, overthrew and murdered President William R. Tolbert Jr.

The presidency was vacant from 1980 to 1986, with executive power held by Doe as the head of the People's Redemption Council. Doe was later elected president in the 1985 general election, making him the first president outside of the Americo-Liberian elite. Doe was later overthrown and murdered in 1990 following the commencement First Liberian Civil War, during which the presidency remained vacant.

Following the 1997 general election, Charles Taylor held the presidency until his resignation on August 11, 2003 as part of a peace deal to end the Second Liberian Civil War. His successor, Moses Blah, ceded executive power on October 13 of that year to Gyude Bryant, the Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia. The presidency was resumed on January 16, 2006 following the 2005 election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as the first female president.

Powers and Duties

The presidency of Liberia is largely modeled on the presidency of the United States.

Executive functions

The 1986 Constitution gives the president the power to appoint all cabinet ministers, judges, ambassadors, sheriffs, county officials and military officers with the advice and consent of the Senate. Additionally, the president has the power to dismiss all appointees from office at his or her discretion. The president may also grant pardons or revoke sentences and fines. The president conducts all matters of foreign policy, though any treaties or international agreements must be ratified by both houses of the Legislature. Furthermore, the president serves as the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia.

The Constitution also grants the president the power to declare a state of emergency during times of war or civil unrest and suspend civil liberties during the emergency as necessary, with the exception of habeas corpus. Within seven days of the declaration, the president must state to the Legislature the reasons for the declaration, which both houses must then approve by a two-thirds majority. Otherwise, the president must repeal the state of emergency.

Legislative functions

The president must sign all legislation passed by the House of Representatives and Senate. The president may choose to veto any legislation, which may be overturned by a two-thirds majority in both houses. Additionally, the president may exercise a pocket veto by refusing to sign legislation when the end of the twenty-day deadline for signing the bill falls during a recess of the legislature. The president may extend a legislative session past its adjournment date or call a special extraordinary session when he or she deems it necessary in the national interest. The president must also give an annual report to the Legislature on the state of the country.


To be eligible for office under the current Constitution, a presidential candidate must:

Additionally, the president may not reside in the same county as the Vice President of Liberia.

Term and election

Under the original 1847 Constitution, the president was elected to a two-year term, which was increased to four years on May 7, 1907.[1] Under this amendment, a new president would serve for eight years and could be re-elected to unlimited four-year terms. During the presidency of William R. Tolbert, Jr., the Constitution was amended to restrict the president to a single eight-year term; by 1976, voices in the Legislature were being raised in favor of returning to the previous system, but Tolbert proclaimed his support for the existing system and vowed to veto any constitutional amendments to remove term limits.[2]

Currently, the president is elected by popular vote to a six-year term and is limited to two terms. Under the 1986 Constitution, presidential elections utilize a two-round system, wherein a second round of voting is held between the two candidates with the highest number of votes if no single candidate obtains a majority in the first round. Each term begins and ends on the first January 16 after presidential elections are held. At the time of their inauguration, each president is required under the Constitution to take a presidential oath promising to preserve and defend the Constitution and faithfully execute the law. The oath is administered by the Chief Justice of Liberia in front of a joint session of the Legislature.


Old Executive Mansion in Monrovia, 1920
Executive Mansion in Monrovia, 2009

The President of Liberia resides and works out of the Executive Mansion in the capital of Monrovia.[3][4] Located across the street from the Capitol Building in the Capitol Hill district, the current building was constructed during the presidency of William Tubman.[4]


Political parties
Other factions


No. President
Term of Office Party Term
Vice President
1 Joseph Jenkins Roberts
January 3, 1848 January 7, 1856 Independent 1.
Nathaniel Brander
Anthony D. Williams
Stephen Allen Benson
2 Stephen Allen Benson
January 7, 1856 January 4, 1864 Independent 5.
Beverly Page Yates
Daniel Bashiel Warner
3 Daniel Bashiel Warner
January 4, 1864 January 6, 1868 Republican Party 9.
James M. Priest
4 James Spriggs Payne
January 6, 1868 January 3, 1870 Republican Party 11.
Joseph Gibson
5 Edward James Roye
January 3, 1870 October 26, 1871
True Whig Party 12.
James Skivring Smith
6 James Skivring Smith
October 26, 1871 January 1, 1872 True Whig Party Vacant
(October 26, 1871 – January 1, 1872)
7 Joseph Jenkins Roberts
January 1, 1872 January 3, 1876
Republican Party 13.
Anthony W. Gardiner
8 James Spriggs Payne
January 3, 1876 January 7, 1878 Republican Party 15.
Charles Harmon
9 Anthony W. Gardiner
January 7, 1878 January 20, 1883
True Whig Party 16.
Alfred Francis Russell
10 Alfred Francis Russell
January 20, 1883 January 7, 1884 True Whig Party Vacant
(January 20, 1883 – January 7, 1884)
11 Hilary R. W. Johnson
January 7, 1884 January 4, 1892 True Whig Party 19.
James Thompson
12 Joseph James Cheeseman
January 4, 1892 November 12, 1896
True Whig Party 23.
William D. Coleman
13 William D. Coleman
November 12, 1896 December 11, 1900 True Whig Party Vacant
(November 12, 1896 – January 3, 1898)
Joseph J. Ross
(October 24, 1899 – January 3, 1902)
14 Garretson W. Gibson
December 11, 1900 January 4, 1904 True Whig Party
Joseph D. Summerville
15 Arthur Barclay
January 4, 1904 January 1, 1912 True Whig Party 29.
(July 27, 1905 – January 1, 1906)
J. J. Dossen
16 Daniel Edward Howard
January 1, 1912 January 5, 1920 True Whig Party 32.
Samuel George Harmon
17 Charles D. B. King
January 5, 1920 December 3, 1930
True Whig Party 34.
Samuel Alfred Ross
Henry Too Wesley
Allen Yancy
18 Edwin Barclay
December 3, 1930 January 3, 1944 True Whig Party James Skivring Smith, Jr.
19 William Tubman
January 3, 1944 July 23, 1971
True Whig Party 39.
Clarence Lorenzo Simpson
William R. Tolbert Jr.
20 William R. Tolbert Jr.
July 23, 1971 April 12, 1980
True Whig Party Vacant
(July 23, 1971 – April 1972)
James Edward Greene
(July 22, 1977 – October 31, 1977)
Bennie Dee Warner
Vacant April 12, 1980 January 6, 1986  
21 Samuel Doe
January 6, 1986 September 9, 1990
National Democratic Party 47.
Harry Moniba
Vacant September 9, 1990 August 2, 1997  
22 Charles Taylor
August 2, 1997 August 11, 2003
National Patriotic Party 48.
Enoch Dogolea
(June 24, 2000 – July 24, 2000)
Moses Blah
23 Moses Blah
August 11, 2003 October 14, 2003
National Patriotic Party Vacant
(August 11, 2003 – October 14, 2003)
Vacant October 14, 2003 January 16, 2006  
24 Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
January 16, 2006 Incumbent
(Term expires on January 16, 2018)
Unity Party 49.
Joseph Boakai
Interim and non-presidential Heads of State
No. Head of State
Position Term of Office Party
Samuel Doe
Chairman of the People's Redemption Council April 12, 1980 January 6, 1986 Military /
National Democratic Party
Amos Sawyer
President of the Interim Government of National Unity November 22, 1990 March 7, 1994 Liberian People's Party
1 David D. Kpormakpor
Chairman of the Council of State March 7, 1994 September 1, 1995 Independent
2 Wilton G. S. Sankawulo
Chairman of the Council of State September 1, 1995 September 3, 1996 Independent
3 Ruth Perry
Chairwoman of the Council of State September 3, 1996 August 2, 1997 Independent
Gyude Bryant
Chairman of the National Transitional Government October 14, 2003 January 16, 2006 Liberian Action Party

See also



  1. Starr, Frederick (1913). Liberia: Description, History, Problems. Chicago. p. 256.
  2. "Pres. Tolbert Says 'No' To Evil Tradition: Vows to Veto Any Amendment To Keep Him In Office". [Monrovia] Sunday Express 1976-03-21: 1/2.
  3. Johnston, Sir Harry Hamilton; Otto Stapf (1906). Liberia. 1. Dodd, Mead & Company. p. 222.
  4. 1 2 Massaquoi, Hans J. (October 1971). "Liberia: End of the Tubman Era". Ebony: 48.


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